Sims 4 Cottage Living: The expansion pack we've been waiting for is available now

I've always gotten along better with plants in the Sims 4 than I do with real-life greenery. My Sims can usually make a decent living by selling flowers, fruits and vegetables. Though Simmers have been gardening in the Sims 4 for some time, the newest expansion pack, Cottage Living, available now, takes living off the land to a whole new level. CNET went hands-on with the cozy, cottagecore pack ahead of its release.

Sims 4 Cottage Living introduces a new world, Henford-on-Bagley, as well as new premade families, holidays and Create-A-Sim and build mode items. In addition, Sims can work toward being a Country Caretaker, a new nature aspiration. All in all, Cottage Living gives a new realism and dynamic atmosphere to the life-simulation game.

A farming-themed pack has been at the top of Simmers' wish lists for a long time. Antonio Romeo, the game's lead producer, told CNET via email that developers were inspired by the quaint English countryside. In addition, the team enlisted the help of Game Changers members Clare Siobhan, Devon Bumpkin, ThomasTV and HeyHarrie with premade builds.

Cottagecore galore

Create-A-Sim features new clothing items in florals and plaids, as well as cute earrings. After you've designed your family and moved them into a lot, you can explore gorgeous new rustic build items to assemble the perfect cottage or farmhouse. Imagine the possibilities if you've installed the Country Kitchen kit! Build mode didn't forget about your yard either -- you can also purchase chicken coops and animal sheds to house new barnyard friends.

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We've seen cats and dogs in the Sims 4 before, but Cottage Living brings in chickens, cows, llamas and more. And they don't count as family members like cats and dogs do, so you won't max out your house size.

"Cats and dogs primarily provide companionship, whereas cottage animals provide that too, as well as useful products such as eggs, milk and wool," Romeo said. "Cleaning, feeding and socializing with these animals results in the highest quality products. When Sims befriend rabbits and birds, those animals can bring gifts and even help in the garden."

You can also find and add new Pond Effects like swans, fireflies, tadpoles, ducks and alligators, which adds more life to the game. We just wish you could interact with them. Sims can also enjoy new hobbies like canning and cross-stitching.

Build mode also features two different styles of garden patches, so you're not trying to navigate crops in a thousand pots and planter boxes. And instead of just selling your crops through inventory, you can find Crumplebottom's Garden Shop and Goldbloom's Grocery Store in build mode for your Sim to do business from.

Once your Sim has raised some oversize crops and taken care of animals, head to a fair. Similar to the festival events in other game packs, Simmers can participate in the Finchwick fairs every weekend for chickens, oversize crops, cows and more to enter competitions, win ribbons and buy unique items.

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Keep it green

Cottage Living can also tie in to the Eco Lifestyle expansion pack EA released last June focused on upcycling, growing your own food, wind turbines, solar power and more. If you have the pack installed, your actions in Henford-on-Bagley will impact your Eco-Footprint.

"Animals themselves do not contribute directly to the footprint, but if the player neglects the animal shed or the chicken coop and they start to get dirty, this will lower the overall Eco Footprint for your neighborhood," Romeo said.

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In addition, the new ability to run a legitimate farm in the Sims 4 means more options for challenges like Rags to Riches and Living off the Land.

Cottage Living also adds new gameplay aspects like Lot Challenges. For example, in the Sims 4 your fridge is always full. The upside is always having food, while the downside is sometimes the cost of the dishes. In Cottage Living, you can turn on the Simple Living Lot Challenge. This makes cooking cheaper, but you're responsible for finding the ingredients.

Simulation games from the Sims 4 to Animal Crossing became a haven for people last year during the coronavirus pandemic. Cottage Living only expands on the comforting escape that players can find in the Sims 4, even as the world is opening back up and more people are getting vaccinated.

Romeo can't wait for players to dive into the new pack.

"Cottage Living offers a relaxing and quaint cottage experience surrounded by lush beauty and adorable animals," he said. "If you ever wanted to live off your land, care for animals and be part of a small town full of friendly locals, Cottage Living has you covered."

The Sims 4 Cottage Living expansion pack is on sale now for $40 on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and PC on Origin or Steam.